Recently, the Supreme Court has ruled that bail cannot be denied as a punitive measure, regardless of the crime’s severity.

The Case Background 

  • The order originated from Javed Gulam Nabi Shaikh’s appeal against the Bombay High Court’s denial of bail under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA).
  • The Supreme Court declined the National Investigation Agency’s request to postpone proceedings and ordered Shaikh’s release, noting his extended detention without charges being framed.
  • Despite the serious allegations, the court reiterated the principle that bail should not be used as a form of punishment, highlighting lapses in adherence to this legal standard by trial courts and High Courts over time.

Key Highlights

Protection of Speedy Trial Rights

  • The Supreme Court emphasized that if the state, prosecution agencies, or courts cannot ensure a speedy trial, bail should not be withheld based on the seriousness of the alleged crime.
  1. Reference was made to the recent judgment in Mohd. Muslim v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2023, which held that bail can be granted if there is undue delay in the trial, even under stringent statutes like the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985.
  2. Additionally, the judgment in Union of India vs. K.A. Najeeb (2021) was relied upon, which held that the UAPA does not prevent constitutional courts from granting bail due to prolonged delays in the trial.

Consequences of Bail Refusal

  • The apex court warned that denying bail unjustly imprisons an accused, who is presumed innocent until proven guilty, leading to what it termed “prisonisation.”

Upholding Constitutional Rights

  • The Bench stated that under Article 21 of the Constitution, the right to a speedy trial applies universally, irrespective of the nature of the alleged crime.
  1. Article 21 guarantees the fundamental right to protection of life and personal liberty. It ensures safeguards against arbitrary deprivation of life and liberty.

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